By Lauren Mueller, Reporter
When it comes to teaching children compassion, the Compassion Experience, hosted by Compassion International, believes that sharing the true stories of youth in other countries is the most relatable way to ensure the message gets across.
“We’ve been on mission trips before, and we want our kids to get the chance to see what we saw,” said Jacob Kelso. The father of three brought his family to the Compassion Experience hosted by Clovis Hills on Sunday, Jan 17. He and his wife Ashley have been to countries similar to those portrayed in the Clovis tour.
“We want to teach our kids compassion,” Ashley Kelso added.
Though their youngest daughter is only three, the couple believes that the exposure to what other children live like is good for her to see. It is something they hope to use in conversations with their children throughout their lives.
Robert and Cassie Kemp are in agreement with the Kelso family. They brought their 3-year-old daughter Mikaela to the Compassion Experience. Robert Kemp is in the military, stationed in Fresno as part of the Fresno National Guard. He has been to countries such as Iraq.
“More people should see this event because you don’t realize how well off America is until you’ve seen this,” he said. “I’ve been to places like this [exhibit] and on the other side of the wire from the base you can see the mud huts they live in. Sometimes they don’t even have huts.”
Kelso also commented that he wants to raise his daughter to care about others and help those in need.
This same principal is the reason Angelic Cloud brought her daughter, 12-year-old Quaya, to see the event. Coming a second time, however, was Quaya’s idea.
“I wanted to see how they [the children in the exhibits] lived in other countries and how they got through their daily life,” Quaya Cloud said.
The 12-year-old also excitedly added that she and her mom are sponsoring a little girl from the Philippines.
“We should all sponsor,” Cloud insisted. “We should all be equal and we should all have equal stuff.”
Angelic Cloud said that she hoped her daughter would understand the privilege of living in the United States after attending the Compassion Experience. The fact that Quaya wanted to return showed that the message had gotten through.
However, it is not just those who attend the event that are impacted by it. Those who work with the Compassion Experience have their own testimonies about how it changed their lives.
Chris Laster has been on staff with Compassion International and on tour with the Compassion Experience for four years. For him, the event is more than a far-away idea. It hits close to home.
“I can relate to the stories,” Laster said. “I grew up in an impoverished house with abusive relationships with stepfathers and other people. It wasn’t as bad as these kids, but for me, the stories are real.”
Laster acknowledged that the work is hard. The tours are 2-5 weeks long, with only a week or two at home in between. However, he loves the work and the people he gets to interact with.
David Greco has been with Compassion International just a year longer than Laster, but he was a partner with the organization through child sponsorships for five years prior to being hired.
“I was a worship pastor for nine years before this,” Greco said. “I kinda fell into this. It wasn’t something I set out to do. A friend of mine asked me to join Compassion for one tour [of the exhibits] and after that I just kinda stayed. Now this is what I do full-time.”
Greco also said he was very “informed by faith” in all his decisions.
“The Bible says not to invest in things that rust,” Greco commented. “This is something that will last.”
Greco’s job with the Compassion Experience is as part of the events team. He makes sure things flow smoothly and stories are represented accurately. He also interacts with the people who go through the exhibits, answering any questions they may have and helping them to understand anything that does not make sense.
At the end of the exhibits, there is a chance for people to sponsor a child. The sponsored children are then placed on a magnetic board, where their smiles are the final thing people see before they leave the event. Through the course of the weekend, the board that started empty was filled with dozens of smiling faces of the children who will now have their own success stories join the traveling exhibit.
But the story will not end there. For Compassion International, the journey to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name” is only just beginning.